“When it comes to defending travel, our industry must remain vigilant,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of Loews Hotels & Co, speaking Monday at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
While the global travel and tourism is an $8 trillion market that is expected to grow 44 percent over the next decade, according to data from the World Bank Group, the U.S. share has slumped 13 percent in recent years.
The decline in U.S. competitiveness for international travel dollars means that other destinations abroad are seeing their market share increase. Countries whose tourism shares have grown include China, Germany, Australia, and the U.K.
Tisch stressed the importance of programs like Brand USA, a federally funded organization that promotes the U.S. overseas as a tourist destination. Last year, the U.S. drew more than one million international visitors, generating $8.5 billion for the economy.
Though Congress has extended the fees that fund Brand USA, after 2020, they will be diverted to the U.S. Treasury instead. As funding for the program is called into question, Tisch stated, “it’s a good reminder that even smart and effective programs need diligent advocates.”
If people don’t feel safe, they will not travel
In addition to growing competition from abroad, the industry faces a constant barrage of negative news as security threats occur more regularly.
With travel and hospitality sites – from hotels and airplanes to tourist destinations – the target of terrorist attacks, “it’s so important that our voice is heard when it comes to developing news security procedures,” Tisch continued.
New technology can improve both security and efficiency. The Department of Homeland Security is testing facial recognition, which could expedite the screening process while strengthening security protocols. Meanwhile, next-generation baggage scanners will allow the TSA to zero in on hazards.
The best defense, Tisch said, is working with other countries to share their intelligence on suspected criminals; upgrade their security standards to match those of the U.S.; and require travelers to use e-passports, which are harder to forge.
Taking action on tourism overcrowding
Destinations around the world, and right here at home, are feeling the impact of the global tourism boom, as popular tourist spots are becoming overcrowded.
Numerous national parks are showing the strain from overcrowding. Next to Arcadia National Park in Maine, for example, Bar Harbor officials have experimented with “car-free” mornings to help curb traffic.
Tisch cautioned the problem is only going to get worse.
“By 2030, an additional 600 million people will be traveling around the globe,” he said. “While this may seem like an issue only affecting a handful of destinations today, with the continued growth of travel, it will only increase.”
Tisch believes travel leaders can create and promote tourism strategies to help these communities, while distributing tourism dollars. He suggests creative marketing campaigns to get travelers off-the-beaten-path; identifying areas in need of greater infrastructure investment to deal with heavy tourism traffic; and working with local leaders to preservice historic and cultural areas.
“As an industry, we are uniquely positioned to help solve these challenges while growing the U.S. share of the global travel market.”